As Republicans head to the Reagan Library for yet another GOP Debate it’s important to recognize the man that Ronald Reagan really was and dismiss the one they’ve built up in their heads. First and foremost, Ronald Reagan is not in any way like Donald Trump. Comparing those two is an insult to a genuine, respectful, and kind man who would be appalled at the classless, spiteful tactics of Trump. Now that that preposterous assertion is out of the way we can start dismissing the other modern fallacies about Reagan’s positions.
Unlike the majority of the Republican field, Ronald Reagan was not a brash neo-con ready to start another war. Throughout his presidency he was extremely hesitant to use military force abroad. When the U.S. Marine barracks in Lebanon were bombed in 1983 Reagan withdrew, he didn’t invade. He decided to make fewer targets for Islamists instead of more. Furthermore, and again against the hawks in his party, Reagan negotiated with the Soviets and encouraged diplomacy. Unfortunately, the mainstream GOP has long since forgotten that wisdom thanks in large part to the warmongering Bushes.
Also in contrast to many modern Republicans, Reagan was serious about eliminating entire Federal departments. Although Reagan never saw his goal accomplished, a major plank of his 1980 platform was to abolish the Department of Education. He rightfully saw it as unconstitutional Federal intervention in what had always been a local and state responsibility. He would be ashamed of George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act which massively expanded the department’s size, scope, and spending. Reagan would be just as dismayed by W.’s brother Jeb’s acceptance and advocacy for Common Core.
There are also the numerous times that Ronald Reagan praised libertarians. That praise and identification with libertarianism flies in the face of many neo-cons and establishment Republicans who want nothing to do with libertarians. Rick Santorum, Chris Christie, and Lindsey Graham have been ignorantly fighting against libertarians throughout their Presidential runs while at the same time lauding praise on Reagan. If Republicans truly wanted to follow his example they should watch the above clip, and read Ronald Reagan’s most famous quote on libertarianism which came from a 1975 interview by an upstart Reason Magazine:
“If you analyze it I believe the very heart and soul of conservatism is libertarianism.” – Ronald Reagan
It’s clear that Ronald Reagan was much more accepting of libertarian ideas and welcoming to libertarians than Republicans are today. Although, as much as he admired libertarianism, Ronald Reagan was not a libertarian. The man is largely responsible for the war on drugs as we know it, among other things. That aside, Ronald Reagan did seek to include libertarians and find common ground in cutting government. Today there’s only one Republican that’s attempting to do that: Rand Paul.
If the GOP wants to get back to the spirit and ideas of Ronald Reagan they need to listen more to the one man that’s actually living by his example and supporting his ideas. Rand Paul is the only candidate advocating for a restrained foreign policy and a balanced budget plan that abolishes the Department of Education (and Commerce, HUD, and Energy). He’s the only candidate that wants to cut taxes and regulations more than Reagan did. It’s time for Republicans to stop looking up to the imaginary Reagan in their head, and start paying attention to the candidate most like Reagan that’s currently running to succeed him.